This newsletter is part of a series on the magical-creative properties of the planets, as well as how to begin embodying them yourself.
So much of astrological study nowadays is confined to book learning but my understanding of the planets improved dramatically when I began engaging them directly. By doing this, I could conjure feelings, deeply-impressed images and great meaning behind the words I used.
This newsletter offers you a portal to have your own connection to Mars. It’s one thing to say Mars is about war or strength but it’s another to be in the midst of a final push at work or treating sunburn and think “Mars would like this too”.
If you want help connecting to your unique Mars, and the rest of yourself through the stars, my books are currently open! My readings are meant to lift you up, to secure you against difficulty and remind you that there is always space, creativity, play. Book now to remember your place in the cosmos.
This writing is intentionally not technical and meant to be understood even by those who have not studied astrology but want to connect more deeply to their world and themselves. Remember: these planets all describe fundamental parts of us. Whether you try to or not, you embody Mars everyday. By learning what functions and activities with which Mars corresponds, you learn more about yourself and your life, with nothing added but attention.
By reaching this felt understanding of Mars (and the other planets), I believe we are also able to be better magicians and artists— two categories whose differences are slowly shrinking in my eyes. Do we not need the same centeredness and momentum to create a piece of art as we do to create a spell or gaze into the future? Aren’t we vessels for something beyond our small self in both? This essay also delves into where in your creative-spiritual practice a dose of Mars could serve you well.
From the Chaos
Spanning all the way back to Mesopotamia, Mars has been known as an inauspicious star. According The Great Star List, a Babylonian catalog of celestial bodies, Mars is alternatively known as nakru, “enemy,” lemnu, “evil,” and mustabarru mutanu, “constantly portending pestilence”.1 The presence of Mars in the sky, especially at its brightest and most visible, is consider to bring misfortune and illness.
If you study traditional astrology, this makes sense: Mars is consider a “malefic,” one who brings subjectively difficult and painful experiences, but scholars like Dr. Ali Olomi point out that its roughness does not point to some inherent evil or moral foulness. In Mesopotamia, Mars was syncretized with Nergal, god of death, pestilence and plague, as well of Lord of the Underworld.2 Dr. Olomi points out that the Underworld for the Mesopotamians is not the same heavenly, bright abode of the Greeks or Christian cosmologies, but “an ambivalent place a place of fog and dust and shadow,” a place of chaos, which also aptly describes Mars.3 That is why Nergal was considered inauspicious, because he brought with him swirling unknowns and shadowy, lightning-quick outcomes.
When we speak of Mars, we enter this same dark, mysterious place, full of risks, foes and potential harms. But so much else can emerge from the primordial deep, including the skills necessary to face such chaos.
an activity: While still being safe, try spending some time in the dark. Perhaps visit a local park after sunset or turn off all the lights in your house after dark. Sit still and take the darkness in. Notice what feelings — confusion, fear peace— that arise and let them pass. Really dwell in the blankness, the mysterious potential, of this unknown space. What is arising from this darkness? Fantastical visions? Potential nightmares? How do you want to respond to these images and ideas? Try becoming more and more aware of how you respond to darkness and chaos.
Wound and Cure
From chaos can spring many things, often with the positive and negative intertwined. Another common theme of Mars is sickness— Uttering his name was said to bring both “prosperity to the people” and “a raging plague”.4 As an Underworld god, Nergal had special province over inflicted death, like the body’s subjection to disease, a city’s succumbing to a wartime invasion, or even the possession by demons. In Medical astrology, Mars is a disease-bringing planet, particularly hot and irritating ailments: fevers, breaks, burns, accidents, cuts. Having Mars transit a chart placement that is tied to health can bring on one of these ailments. Abu Ma’shar also gives Mars rulership of “the pains of labor…death during pregnancy…miscarriages, complications at birth” as well as “wounds, cuts, and blood”.5 Even when something miraculous and auspicious is happening, such as childbirth, Mars still has its way through the pain and danger inherent in bringing something into this world.
But Mars is also said to be in charge of “physicians, surgeons, and pharmacists,”6 while Abu Ma'shar gives him both executioners and surgeons.7 According to al-Isfahani, the first Mars hour of Mars day is auspicious for "medical treatment for enduring ailments...as are surgeries and cupping".8 Both killing and saving a life can be accomplished by the cutting, the severing motion that Mar so prefers. There's a delicate balance to martiality of when to use force; you are supposed to break a few ribs if you do CPR correctly. To save someone with an inflamed appendix one must cut them apart and tear the organ out.
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